Show Notes

Here you will find transcripts, notes, and links to sources or resources for each episode.  If you want to know before listening to the episode or reading the transcript whether a movie is poly or not (perhaps to avoid spoilers), look for the Poly-ish Movie Reviews logo next to the title of the movie on each Show Notes entry.  If the movie has some kind of poly content, you will see the logo.  If the movie is rejected for no poly-ish content, you will not see the logo.  Additionally, you can also visit the Poly-ish Movies tab to see the complete list of verified poly-ish movies, whether that movie has been reviewed or not.

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Episode 43 - The Mentalist

posted Dec 16, 2018, 5:03 AM by Joreth InnKeeper

The Mentalist s02e16 (2009) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

Here's a new one! I find poly movies to review by one of 3 ways: 1) It's on a poly list somewhere on the internet; 2) Someone learns that I review poly movies & suggests a movie to me; 3) Netflix suggests a "similar title" based on me adding known poly movies to my queue. What has never happened, to the best of my recollection, is me stumbling upon a poly show completely by accident.

The closest I've come is watching movies or TV shows that are strong poly analogues - shows that are not explicitly poly, but, other than the sex, they might as well be. For example, Sex And The City (the TV show, not the movies), a story about 4 female, non-sexual (with each other) best friends who are actually each others' soulmates and form an intentional family of sorts between them. Think of Cunning Minx's Poly Weekly podcast episode about "What Would Monogamists Do?" where her basic premise is that, what we do isn't all that different, and if you're stumped for how to deal with a situation, just ask how you would handle it if you were monogamous, and the answer will probably be very similar. I say all the time, "that's not a poly problem, that's a people problem."

But I'm getting off topic. Stumbling across actual polyamory in popular media with no notice, right.

As regular followers undoubtedly know, I am also a skeptic. In addition to my collection of poly media, I am also building a collection (mostly an online list, but I will slowly collect the physical media too) of skeptic media - movies, music, podcasts, books, etc. I like lists and categories, and just like the poly community, the skeptic community suffers from a lack of specific-to-us art & entertainment. Much like the poly community, the skeptic community not only suffers from a lack of art, but is drowning under a deluge of "art" that promotes the antithesis and even outright reviles everything we stand for.

What both the poly and the skeptic communities have in common, is that they are both subcultures struggling to find a toe-hold in a society that has built into its very institutions, its foundations, a support structure for mindsets & philosophies that are both opposite and intolerant of these subcultures themselves.

But again, I'm getting off topic.

All this is to say that I've been watching The Mentalist. It's a TV cop drama about a guy who was a con artist using the label "psychic" to bilk people out of money by making shit up about their dead relatives, and other related cons, until he offered his "psychic services" to the police on a serial murder case. In his arrogance, he did what media-hungry con artists (*cough* Sylvia Brown *cough*) do, and that was to spout off on television about his "work" on the case, insulting the serial killer and pissing him off.

So the serial killer, Red John, targeted Jayne's (the "psychic") wife & daughter, and made damn sure that Jayne knew who had done it and why. Now we come to the actual start of the series, where Patrick Jayne works as a consultant for the California Bureau of Investigation, not as a phony psychic, but using his skill and expertise in deception to help catch criminals. Although he closes cases left and right and has been a tremendous asset to the CBI, his sole motivation for working with them is to get close enough to the Red John case that he can find Red John and kill him, and the other closed cases are merely incidental. He knows that he will go to jail, and possibly get the death penalty, but revenge is what drives him and helping people are a side effect.

Patrick Jayne is an atheist and a skeptic, and every episode highlights, not only the kinds of things that people do to trick other people, but also how we can fool ourselves. The character states outright, unashamedly and in no uncertain terms, that there is no god (episode 2), and there are no psychics, faith healers, people who can talk to the dead, none of that (almost every episode). He is James Randi, Jamey Ian Swiss, Penn & Teller, and Joe Nickell, all wrapped up in a slick, charismatic, borderline sociopathic, TV protagonist package. With expensive suits and vests. You can see why I might like him, yes?

So, what does this have to do with polyamory? Nothing, and that's why I was caught by surprise and why I liked the episode as much as I did.

In Season 2, there is an episode called Code Red. It takes place in a bio-warfare lab where one of the research scientists goes into the containment area to do her work, opens the scary briefcase of deadly toxin, finds one of the vials missing, looks around, and sees it lying, open, on the floor. Knowing she has only a few hours left to live, she hops on her fancy research computer there in the containment lab (which is also connected to the internet) and finds the "best detective" in town - Patrick Jayne - and calls to tell him that she has been murdered.

So, Jayne does what TV detectives do, and rounds up the usual suspects, including her husband / co-researcher. In the course of the investigation, we find out that she has been having an affair with another researcher. Well, that makes Hubby the number one prime suspect, right?


Normally, it would, and the team immediately turns to the husband. Except they find out that the Mister & Missus have an open marriage. As they try to poke the husband for hints of jealousy, husband and wife both put their hands on the glass wall separating them and gaze soulfully into each others' eyes as they both admit to having "affairs" and to not being jealous. The husband goes so far as to explain that he loves his wife so much, that her happiness means everything to him, and her lover makes her happy, therefore he is happy about the lover.

[inserted clip of the husband being happy for his wife having a lover]

Well, at this point, the writers have a choice to make. They can, like they did in House, show the cracks in the facade of this weird "open marriage" and eventually lead us to some jilted lover or the husband who was secretly really jealous or even the wife taking her own life in some sort of guilty conscience and wanting to frame her husband or something. Because, of course, only "crazy" people have open marriages, right? Or they can use the open marriage as a red herring that eventually leads to a dead end, to distract us from who the real killer might be.

Guess which path they took?

I'll give you a hint. In fact, I already gave you the hint. I liked the episode.

That's right, this was treated as something none of the main characters understood, but, as it didn't actually lead to the killer, it was immediately dismissed as unimportant. We met the wife's lover, and we also met a former lover of the husband.

[inserted clip of the wife's lover describing his response to the unusual arrangement]

The husband's former lover had nothing but kind words to say about both husband and wife, with no estrangement or bad feelings post-breakup. In fact, she revealed some of the social backlash that *she* received for participating in this unusual arrangement.

[inserted clip of the husband's former lover describing the backlash]

The relationship was not dysfunctional and did not contribute to the case, therefore, even if the main characters didn't "get it", it was not otherwise worthy of comment. There was also no relationship re-evaluation by the main characters in light of the events that eventually led to a reaffirmation of social norms. The polyamory (although they never used the word) was just a non-event.

In order to explain why I liked the episode, I did have to reveal the red herring, which is a common plot twist in murder mysteries - any good one will have at least 2 before the crime is solved. So I ruined that for you. But I won't tell you what the actual resolution was, in case ya'll want to actually see the episode.

And I do recommend watching the show.

It's a TV drama, where complicated murder plots have to be set up and then revealed in an hour, so we have all the expected super-cop stuff that happens in TV shows, where warrants come in on time and fingerprints can be run in a couple of hours, and Jayne's deception expertise borders on real magic. Blah blah blah, I like the show anyway. And I liked this episode because an open marriage was introduced and ended up being, as far as I can tell, exactly what the couple said it was - a happy open marriage with satellite partners who didn't seem too harmed by their experiences with the couple - and their open marriage did not lead to death and distruction. Therefore, this was not one of those morality plays I hate so much that want to tell us "polyamory is doomed to fail, here, watch this train-wreck to see why".

Jayne's detection skills seem supernatural, which could be bothersome to real skeptics. In fact, those of us who have spent time learning about "psychics" and their tricks know how sloppy they actually are. When you're not their target, when you are aware of what they're doing, and when you're looking for it, these people really aren't very good. They throw out a whole buch of bullshit like spaghetti to see what sticks to the wall, and their "marks" do the work for them - remembering the hits and forgetting the misses, supplying the answers themselves but misremembering later, stuff like that. I mean, they're really not very good. Hell, I used to do it myself when I was a teenager, and I amazed everyone. Cold reading combined with an intuitive sense of people, relationship dynamics, and psychology can be a pretty amazing combination. But in the end, it's just a lot of guessing.

Jayne, in the nature of television, skips over all the misses and just seems to "hit" every single time he opens his mouth. I know that's not how it works, and I don't care. He also breaks all the rules and always gets away with it - the typical "maverick cop". In the real world, I don't want any maverick cops that get excused. I don't want vigilante justice. I want a system in place to protect me from those who would abuse their roles as my protectors. I don't want rule-breaking built into the institution and I don't want what we see on TV to be celebrated and practiced by flawed humans with their egos and their broken perceptions and without high-paid writers who know the ending. They have rules for a reason, and I am very disdainful about cops who break the rules. But in a TV show, I get to indulge my schadenfreude and my frustration at the injustices of the world and have cops who follow the rules when they should, and break the rules when it's necessary, and the bad guys always pay the price for their crimes.

So keep that in mind if you watch the show. It's a TV cop drama, and all that it entails. But to get more skepticism on television, to explain how the quacks, frauds, and charlatans pull their cons on unsuspecting victims, I'll take the formulaic writing if that's what it takes to keep a show on the air that highlights science & skepticism where the general public can see it. And I'll also take more shows where polyamory makes an appearance but isn't the evil that leads to destruction and chaos. In an episodic series where the characters have to come into contact with a variety of people, of course they should come in contact with people in unusual relationship structures. I would prefer to see these people portrayed realistically, not always as villains or as victims of their own relationship choices necessarily going bad.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 42 - Family

posted Dec 14, 2018, 1:27 AM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Dec 14, 2018, 1:30 AM ]

Family (a web series) (2008) - Internet Movie Data Base - Web Streaming - Amazon

I've posted about this show before on my personal blog, but I haven't done an official review yet. First of all, it's poly. It's about as poly as you get. Second, it's funny and weird. Third, I liked the first half better than the second half, but I liked it in general. Mostly it was just a couple of episodes in the second half that threw me off.

Family is the brain-child of Terisa Greenan, a polyamorous filmmaker in Seattle, WA. The show follows the lives of Ben, Gemma, and Stuart, a live-in triad (I get the impression that it's sexually a Vee, but they all consider themselves equal family, so I'll call them a triad) that is very loosely based on Terisa's own life.

Each episode is roughly 7 to 10 minutes long and posted on YouTube, although there are 2 or 3 "uncensored" episodes that are posted elsewhere that doesn't have YouTube's ridiculous nudity taboo. We start out by just meeting the three main characters and getting a feel for how their family is arranged. My favorite episode is the second one, where the triad goes to a poly meeting. If you've ever been to a poly meeting and have a sense of humor about yourself, this episode will have you laughing out loud at the caricature painting of poly people.

The entire series is available as a DVD, and watching all episodes one after the other is about 3 hours, and worth the watch. The show covers things like adding new partners, getting along with metamours you don't like, meeting the "in-laws", dealing with conservative neighbors, and even dealing with the media.

About halfway through, though, the show takes a turn for the weird. It introduces some pretty bizarre characters and some of the plots have less to do with polyamory and more to do with just having strange people squatting in your garage, with a bit of psychosis-masquerading-as-woo thrown in for flavor. But it doesn't leave polyamory completely, and the series finale brings it back with a very serious issue that our main characters have to face together as a family.

The production quality is pretty good, and although the acting is a little wooden at times, it's not so terrible that it distracts from my enjoyment of the show in general. Really, the strange characters starting about 8 or 9 episodes in was more distracting than any less-than-stellar acting.

I definitely recommend watching this show and, like Summer Lovers, no list of poly movies would be complete without it.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 41 - Le Bonheur

posted Oct 15, 2018, 9:07 AM by Joreth InnKeeper

Le Bonheur (1965) - Internet Movie Data Base - Amazon (non-US format)
Someone recommended this movie to me as a poly movie, and I can see why he did, but I have to disagree. I don't think this was a poly movie. I think this movie had a poly character in it, but the movie was not polyamorous. As far as enjoyment goes, my tastes run towards the banal and crude - I like action flicks and screwball comedies. I've written several times that I just don't get artsy films or foreign films made during the sexual revolution when things were all experimental and everything looked like the writers and directors were permanently on LSD.
So you might like this film if your tastes differ from mine - don't avoid seeing it on the basis of my personal enjoyment if you happen to be into artsy or foreign or '60s movies. And as far as artsy or foreign or '60s movies goes, this wasn't even all that horrible. It didn't have the bizarre music or jump cuts of A Woman Is A Woman. But, probably because of the difference in cultures, I just didn't find this movie very interesting or the characters very compelling. I know, there's irony in that statement after admitting that I like movies like Caddyshack. But it's the truth, I found the movie just kind of blah. However, I can see other people enjoying it. I have lots of friends who like lots of movies that I don't enjoy, and I can see some of them really liking this film.
As for the poly stuff, the plot is about a married man who loves and adores his wife and kids, but who falls in love with another woman. According to my movie guidelines, cheating movies do not get added to the list, but a movie where the cheater genuinely loves both of his partners and there is some outside constriction preventing them from living honestly (such as social taboos) may be exempted and be added to the list.
Francois loves Therese, his wife. He's very happy with his life; content. But then one day he meets Emilie. And he falls immediately in love. This was his first strike against him, for me. I don't much hold with the love-at-first-sight bullshit. I believe people can have instant attractions to each other, and then sometimes, by coincidence, they are attracted to people who happen to also be compatible to them, so the attraction-at-first-sight can blossom into a true love, and it is when that happens that people think they fell in love at first sight. But we don't hear epic tales of attraction-at-first-sight that then turns out poorly. It's a matter of confirmation bias, or the Fake Boob/ Fake Toupee fallacy (which says "I can always spot fake boobs/toupees because they look fake, except when they don't and I can't"). Love at first sight is real, except when it isn't.
Anyway, so Francois falls in "love" with Emilie and immediately begins an affair with her. As I said, cheating movies don't make the list, but loving both partners might exempt it, so this movie could have been added to the list. The reason why it's not is because of the ending, which changes the whole tone of the movie into "multi-partner relationships are Wrong and Bad", and which I'll go into next, so spoilers ahead.


I think Francois is a selfish, egocentric jerk, more concerned with his own pleasure than anything else. Not liking a character, of course, is not grounds for expulsion from the list. But I didn't like him anyway. There isn't any indication in the movie that there is strong social pressure against turning this cheating V into an honest relationship. It just appears to be How Things Are Done, but there's no constriction or struggle against it.
Francois is honest with his mistress, Emilie, about being married with kids and about being happy with his home life. He gives her no illusions that she might one day become Mrs. Francois. So he has that going for him. But he never expresses any interest or desire in trying to change things, and Emilie accepts that she is the mistress out of hand.
However, the conversation we see between Emilie and Francois about this very thing is what makes me believe that Francois is actually poly and not just a cheating bastard who thinks with his prick, and is probably why the movie was recommended to me in the first place. He explains to Emilie how he loves both his wife and his mistress, that they're very different people and not interchangeable, and how happiness and love grows when there are more people.
In this conversation, he says that it was only chance that led him to meet his wife first and Emilie second, but if they had met in the reverse order, he would probably be living with Emilie instead. Emilie doesn't try to talk him out of his marriage, doesn't pout and wish to replace the wife. She seems to accept her role as mistress without any fuss. So this is why I don't see any particular outside pressure because the characters don't seem to be stressed or pressured to conform - they seem to be content with the way things are.
Later, Therese, the wife, notices that Francois has been extra happy of late and asks him why. Francois tries to get out of telling her, but she pushes, and he finally admits that there is another woman. Here we have another conversation that indicates he is obviously poly. He explains to Therese that his love for Emilie is not love taken away from Therese, that all his love for Theresa is still all his love for Theresa, it's just that extra love grew for Emilie when he met her.
Therese's lines indicate that she is unhappy with this revelation, but her acting doesn't show any emotion at all. At the end of this 2 minute conversation, Theresa smiles and does a complete reversal, accepting that her husband has a mistress and instigating sex.
At this point, I'm thinking, "ah, French films ... I just don't get them." But then came the part that took this movie out of the running for me.
This conversation between Francois and Therese takes place in the woods on their weekly picnic with the kids. Francois takes a nap after the sex and wakes up to find Therese gone. After a frantic search through the woods, he finds a crowd of people surrounding the body of his wife, who drowned herself in the lake. Obviously, Therese did not accept sharing her husband.
So we went from a movie with a poly guy stuck in a mono world with a wife and a mistress, to a movie with a selfish man whose personal pleasure was more important than the life or happiness of those around him, who cheated on his wife and kept the lie for as long as possible with no intentions of ever telling her except that she browbeat it out of him, and of said wife being so opposed to non-monogamy that she killed herself immediately, leaving her two toddler-age children alone with her cheating husband.
This, to me, sets the tone for "non-monogamy is doomed to fail, here watch this train-wreck to see why" and takes this movie off the list.
But it's not over yet.
So then Francois is left alone with his kids. But because he's a single father in the '60s, it is determined that he cannot care for the kids himself and gives them up to his brother & sister-in-law (or is it sister & brother-in-law? Whatever, it's the kids' aunt and uncle) to raise. After finishing the rest of the summer without his wife, without his kids, and without his mistress (he stayed in the town he was working in, rather than going back to his home, where the mistress happened to also live), he decides that he wants his happiness back.
So, conveniently, he has a young woman sitting around waiting for him and immediately sets her up in the role of substitute wife and mother. Emilie is just so happy to have Francois back in her life that she agrees to anything he wants. So Emilie steps in and Francois goes back to, basically, his original setup with a beautiful young wife and two young kids.
And that's where it ends.
This is why I find him to be selfish and egocentric. This whole movie is all about what Francois wants and he maneuvers everyone else around him to provide him with the life he wants without regard to everyone else's feelings. Emilie is now saddled with two toddlers, and we see a montage of Emilie feeding the kids, cleaning up after them, and being the dutiful housewife, whereas Therese was happy being the housewife, but the news of his infidelity made her so miserable that the only way she could see out was death. And in the end, Francois gets his life back with apparently no consequences except that he only has one woman instead of two, but he doesn't seem to mind all that much. By the end, the two women certainly seemed interchangeable to me, as Francois walks off into the sunset with his new wife and kids, all holding hands and strolling through the woods as if nothing has changed.
Although Francois said a lot of very good poly lines, this movie had that elusive and hard-to-quantify tone that implies, to me, that non-monogamy is bad. As I said in the guidelines, it's not whether a movie ends happily or tragically, or whether a multi-adult relationship breaks up or stays together - it's what the movie says about non-monogamy that puts it on the poly-ish movie list or not. And, in spite of the main character clearly being about loving multiple people, this movie said to me that non-monogamy is cruel and wrong and that a happy nuclear family is the goal.
I think one could defend some ambivalence in the message, with Francois being written sympathetically and not as a villain, so I don't actually recommend that ya'll avoid seeing this movie. It may be worth your time. But I think that the way things were wrapped up, ambivalence aside, the message was more pro-nuclear-family than pro-consider-alternatives, so I will not include it on the list, but I will suggest that people might want to see this movie if they're into French cinema or if they want to hear a protagonist defend the idea of loving two women at the same time.
You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 40 - Keeping The Faith

posted Sep 15, 2018, 7:46 PM by Joreth InnKeeper

Keeping The Faith (2006) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

I think this is one of those movies that Netflix recommended to me based on adding some other "similar" movie. I wasn't even entirely sure, with a title like that, if the movie was on the list to review for polyamory or for my list of skeptical movies. But with the happy surprise of the last movie I reviewed (A Strange Affair), I was actually kind of hopeful about this one. It was the story of two young men who were best friends as kids, growing up to become a Jewish rabbi and a Catholic priest, and the tomboy who was also their best childhood friend coming back into town as a successful, beautiful, corporate CEO. Because it had big names in it, the movie was most likely to be not-poly, but the setup had some potential.

Unfortunately, it flopped.

Not that the movie wasn't good (that's debatable, based on whether you like romantic comedies and movies that involve secrets), but it wasn't poly at all and it should have been.

These two men love this woman - she was perfect for them both. But because the rabbi is allowed to have sex (and because he is being pressured to find a wife before he becomes head of his temple, or whatever), he immediately acts on his crush when the priest does not because of his vows of celibacy.

So the woman spends about half the movie developing a romantic relationship with the rabbi, but keeping the priest safely in a box labeled "do not touch". And as anyone who spends any time in the world of the Monogamous Mindset knows, when a girl puts a guy in the Friend Box, he's stuck there for life, no matter how strong her feelings for him ... those feelings are just very strong "friend" feelings.*

So, anyway, by the time the priest confesses his love and he has just about talked himself into leaving the priesthood for her, she is already thoroughly immersed in her relationship with the rabbi and totally oblivious to the priest's growing attraction to her. So the priest has to swallow his embarrassment and go back to thinking of her like a sister.

Now, you might be able to put this movie in the poly analogues category, because the three of them remain a strong group throughout the whole movie. The priest somehow manages to only be angry at having their relationship hidden from him, but he doesn't seem to feel any major jealousy. Well, there is the one fight where he gets drunk and yells at the rabbi that the rabbi stole his girlfriend, but mostly the priest seems to recover from his one- or two-night bender and move right into compersion for his two best friends, only nursing the hurt feelings of being lied to (which, frankly, I can totally understand).


The movie ends happily ... for a monogamous movie ... with the rabbi and the woman back together and the priest happy for them both and everyone is one big happy (monogamous & platonic) family. So it might fall under the category of poly analogues, where the only difference between them and us is that the woman would be sleeping with the priest too if it was us.

But the reason why I didn't like this movie is because I get upset at plots that put a convenient excuse in the way, basically cockblocking a poly relationship from happening. Usually, it's death, but in this case, it was vows of celibacy.

See, in the world of the Monogamous Mindset, a person can only romantically love two people at the same time if one of them is dead. It is only acceptable for a woman to say she loves two men if she is referring to her dead husband and her new husband, whom she met a safe time-distance after the death of her first husband of course. So most Monogamous Mindset movies conveniently kill someone off to allow the person torn in the middle the freedom to love them both and to force her to make a choice (*ahem*Pearl Harbor*ahem*).

In this case, the priest's celibacy interfered with his ability to pursue a relationship with the love interest and his religious faith gave him something to hold onto after he was rejected and allowed him to remain in the picture. Whereas with most romcom love triangles, when the love interest rejects one guy for another, he just disappears somehow (maybe he's a bad guy & goes to jail, or maybe he's a good guy and walks away voluntarily, whatever). But because this is a Catholic priest, he is safe enough to keep in the picture and safe enough for both the rabbi and the woman to continue loving because his faith and his vows make him a non-threat. In any other movie where he isn't a priest, the "other love" has to disappear because you can't have the "other love" hanging around your new wife. Or something.

This kind of thing can often be more tone than something specific. It's not very easy to quantify why some movies that end with a dyad still make it to the poly list but other movies don't. It's something in the way the actors and the director interpreted the lines that affect the tone of the movie. These movies never have a bit of dialog where someone says "Whew! It's a good thing my husband was killed in that war, so I can safely love you now without falling out of love with him or having to choose!"

So, in A Strange Affair, where one partner had a serious illness that sort of forced the characters into a position where a love triangle could happen, the tone of that movie didn't strike me as negative. It suggested, to me, that these are people who live in a world where non-monogamy was Just Not Done, so they needed some kind of extraordinary circumstances to leave them open to the possibility, to give them the impetus to even consider something outside of the norm.

But this movie just didn't have that same feeling. The way it was portrayed suggested more of a situation where three people happened to love each other in a world where they shouldn't, so they wrote the circumstances in such a way as to give them a monogamously acceptable way to do that.

Basically, they had to neuter one of the characters in order to keep him in the picture, which isn't the same as killing him off, but it belies a tone sprung from the same well.

I would love to see this movie re-written, where the priest and the rabbi are forced to re-evaluate their religious faiths in light of their growing love and attraction for the same woman (of no particular faith); where the priest and the rabbi both decide that their mutual love for this woman is incompatible with what they have been taught about religion, which then makes them question everything else about religion, and which leads them to the realization that they have always been a happy threesome so there is no reason why they can't continue to be a happy threesome in a much fuller sense of the word. I'd love to see this movie where the woman does not put one of her best friends into the Friend Box, but allows her love for them both to flourish, and where she comes to the same realization - that they have always worked best as the Three Musketeers, and breaking off into a dyad + 1 would change the dynamic in an unacceptable way.

Unfortunately, that was not the movie I watched.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

*The Monogamous Mindset is a particular set of beliefs and viewpoints about monogamy that create the society in which I live. It does not mean that everyone who happens to be monogamous has this mindset, nor does it imply that people who are non-monogamous are automatically free of this mindset. The Monogamous Mindset is a set of rules and morés that dictate how relationships ought to be, many of which are inherently contradictory, selfish, and harmful. One such set of contradictory Monogamous Mindset rules is the rule that you are supposed to marry your best friend, but you're not allowed to be involved with your friends because that would ruin the friendship.

And that's the one I'm referencing here. There is this weird rule out there that people, women especially, can't get romantically involved with their appropriately-gendered friends because that would automatically (or could most likely) ruin the friendship. Men's magazine articles and lonely guys online like to lament about the dreaded F word - "friend". Being called a friend is like the worst thing a woman can do to a man who is interested in her, because it means he will never have a chance.

Of course *I* know this doesn't always happen and that there are exceptions, which is why I speak so condescendingly of the Monogamous Mindset and of this rule in particular, so please don't leave a comment like "but I married my best friend and it's the best relationship I've ever had!" I know, that's what makes this rule so irritating. But it's out there, and it permeates our society, and is quite possibly responsible for a significant amount of unnecessary heartache.

Episode 39 - A Strange Affair

posted Sep 6, 2018, 5:20 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Sep 14, 2018, 9:23 PM ]

A Strange Affair (aka A Husband, A Wife, And A Lover) (1996) - Netflix - IMDB - Amazon

The Netflix summary reads:
"Judith Light stars in this sexy made-for-TV drama about a married woman who discovers that her husband of 23 years has been unfaithful. Just as she finds passionate love in another man's arms and prepares to divorce her husband, he suddenly has a stroke and becomes physically incapacitated. Will she move back in with her husband and take care of him ... even though she may risk losing her new lover?"
When a movie arrives in my mailbox, I don't always remember if I put it in my queue because it was on a poly list somewhere or because Netflix recommended it to me as "similar" to the poly movies I just added to my queue. Judging by the summary, I assumed this was one of the latter types of "poly" movies. I sat down with this movie with the lowest of expectations, prepared to hate it for yet another cheating drama that would probably end with some kind of choice being made, and possibly even a choice I would think was toxic or foolish.
I couldn't have been more wrong. And I love it when I'm wrong about things like this.
First of all, the Netflix summary gets the order of events wrong, which is partially why I had such low expectations. Lisa is married to Eric, a charismatic, charming film maker who hasn't made a film in 7 years and spends his time gambling with the money he steals from his wife and fucking his secretary. We are introduced to this plot by meeting a loan shark's thug who has come to intimidate Lisa at work in the very first scene. Eric is the kind of guy I loathe - an idealistic dreamer who has absolutely no connection to reality and thinks his charm entitles him to break the rules and treat everyone around him like shit.
But he's charming, and a lot of women find themselves in love with charming users like this. And once you're in love, it becomes all too easy to overlook, to excuse, and to rationalize, until you are trapped - held hostage by your own emotions.
But Lisa finds her spine and prepares to leave now that both of her children are out of the house and in college. Except that the day she actually gets the courage to leave, she gets a call from her daughter saying that her husband has had a stroke. So Lisa returns home to care for her husband.
What I really like about how the writer treated this situation is that he made no secret of the resentment that Lisa feels at being trapped again, by her love and her responsibility to Eric. She moves back home to care for him, but she is also excrutiatingly honest when she tells him that their marriage is over and she is only there because her conscience won't let her abandon a dying man who is also the father of her children. I found this to be a bold, courageous choice in storytelling because it is not socially acceptable to be "mean" to someone who is sick and/or dying. Being struck with a crippling illness doesn't erase that person's past as a jerk, and it doesn't necessarily change them, automatically, into a nice person either. It might be inconvenient timing, but leaving someone or disliking someone who has had a near-fatal incident doesn't necessarily make that person a bad person. And that's a really bitter pill for some people to swallow.
The rest of the movie follows Lisa as she attempts to recover from the financial ruin her husband has put her into with his gambling while now being financially responsible for his medical care, and two people with a painful history learning to live together with a debilitating and life-threatening illness.
Now for the poly stuff.
Enter Art, the mechanic who takes pity on Lisa when her car breaks down and she tries to work out a payment plan because she can't afford to pay the bill. Art starts doing stuff around the house for her to make her life a little easier. And in the process, he falls in love.
I won't give away the ending or the details, but what transpires is a very touching story of a woman who learns to fall back in love with her husband while discovering love with someone new. And, even more touching is the story of a man who loves his wife but who is ultimately selfish and is then forced to re-evaluate his priorities and deal with the fact that she loves another man. This is also the very touching story of a man who falls in love with a married woman, who shows us what true love is - the desire to see another person happy and to facilitate that happiness, whatever it means. If she still loves her husband, then her husband must be kept around and must be honored as the man she loves.
I think this is a good example of the kinds of situations that people can relate to - a bridge between the poly and mono worlds. It's not really a poly analogue because she flat out says that she is in love with two men. We see the tension between the metamours, we see the disapproval of the children and the neighbors, we see the resentment of being held back, and the loving amazement when poly works well. It's just a story told within the framework of a situation that non-polys might be able to sympathize with ... a setup that puts a monogamous person in a very difficult position where things are no longer black and white.
What do you do when your husband & father of your children is an asshole but you still love him? What do you do when you are trapped in a marriage that is over but love finds your doorstep anyway? What do you do when you are financially strapped and alone and someone offers no-strings-attached help simply because he thinks you could use it? What do you do when you fall in love with someone you are not supposed to love?
This was one of those poly-ish type movies - a situation that lives on the fuzzy borders of what is and is not polyamory. But the tone of the movie, the scenes between the metamours, the complexity of emotion, the selfless version of love, all make me feel that this movie fits quite squarely into the polyamory category in spite of any debate over which configurations really "count".
I recommend this movie, both for the poly-ish movie list and to watch.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 38 - Fling

posted Jul 26, 2018, 12:59 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 4:36 PM ]

Fling (2008) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

This movie caused me quite some consternation because it had equal parts of "include" and "do not include" on the Poly-ish Movie Criteria List. In fact, it was so ambivalent that it prompted me to write the Guidelines post which became the first episode of this podcast, to help me decide whether or not to include it. I have decided that it should be included on this list, but I am very torn about that decision.

This movie started out as the very first "include" criteria - which is a relationship that appeared happy and functional between two people who enjoyed additional sexual partners besides each other. This movie ended with a tone that seemed to me to be suggesting that the only people who would be interested in open relationships are people who are immature, selfish users, and afraid to commit. The big problem I had with the movie is that the first half and the second half didn't mesh well. It almost seemed to me as though it was written by someone who knew people in happy and successful open relationships, who wrote the characters faithfully and well, but who had a personal belief that open relationships were wrong and so wrote an ending that he believed people in open relationships ought to have.

Naturally, in order to explain, I have to give out spoilers. But I'll leave a good deal of the details out so you can watch the movie without feeling as though you've already watched it.


Mason and Samantha have an open relationship and have been together for several years now. We start the movie with the two of them living together and getting ready to go to a wedding. At the wedding, both of them hook up with other wedding guests and then come back to their hotel room together, apparently totally comfortable with the fact that they were each with other people. They told each other everything and they fell asleep in each other's arms.

Later, Samantha starts dating someone (as opposed to just fucking someone) and she has to explain how her relationship with Mason works. I think this is a very valuable couple of scenes. Samantha is adamant that she is happy, that her relationship with Mason is secure and functional, that she is not a victim and chooses her life, and that jealousy is a symptom of insecurity. She faces someone who is disgusted and contemptuous of the idea of a woman having multiple sexual partners. I think she adequately defends her position and I think it is important to see the reception that people in open relationships receive when they admit to being in open relationships.

Meanwhile, Mason also has a friend who is completely disgusted and contemptuous of their relationship, to the point of appearing personally offended and violently angry about two people insisting that they are happy fucking other people even though he is not involved with either of those people. Again, I think it is important to see this kind of reception. Mason is not quite as good at defending himself, he mainly deflects the questions and accusations in an attempt to remain friendly with his buddy.

The assumptions from the opposition are fairly common - that the only reasons to get into open relationships are: 1) fear of commitment; 2) fear of being alone so willing to put up with being "cheated on"; 3) selfish; 4) using others for sex; etc. Mason and Sam do not appear to be these kinds of people. Their love for each other, their dedication to honesty, their obvious acceptance of each other's other partners (for instance, Mason gives a guy tips on how to hit on Sam when the guy comments about not having any luck without realizing that Mason is Sam's boyfriend and Sam reassures Mason's new girlfriend that it's totally OK to be at their house & to have fun together), their defense of their choices, their declarations that they are confident in each other's commitment to them - all suggest that this is a happy and functioning relationship.

Then the movie goes off the rails. Both of the main characters make decisions that seem totally out of character for the confident, happy people so far portrayed. Mason keeps a secret from Sam, and since Sam actually knows about it from the beginning, she lets Mason keep the secret, which poisons her own feelings about him to the point that she chooses her other boyfriend - y'know, the one who looks on her in disgust and contempt whenever he is reminded that some other guy puts his cock in the same place he does.

Mason is constantly accused of being a user and being afraid to commit, but, as my metamour, Maxine, pointed out to me, "yeah, so that sort of fear of commitment only makes sense if your definition of 'commitment' is to monogamy and being jealous and controlling of your partners", since Mason seems disinclined to leave his relationship with Sam. He seems pretty committed to remaining in his relationship with his partner, to me, he's just not committed to being sexually monogamous, which isn't a commitment that his partner is asking of him.  In fact, there was a scene where everything could have been resolved in a happy poly way, and given what I thought I knew of the characters before, I would have believed the movie if it had taken that direction, and I did not believe the characters choosing the other path.

The implication is that yes, Mason really was a selfish user who was afraid to commit and Sam really did want a traditional life. The problem is that I just didn't see them that way.  I do not think that the first half of the movie justified coming to that conclusion and I don't think that the characters were written or directed to make that a reasonable assumption or conclusion.

So, I have my guideline that says "if the moral of the story is 'polyamory is doomed to fail, here watch this train-wreck to see why' then it doesn't go on the list". But the main relationship in the movie wasn't a train-wreck. It was a pretty realistically functional one, in my opinion, until the two characters made, what I consider to be, out-of-character decisions that ultimately led to a train-wreck. So, I refined my guidelines to include movies that offered scenes of valuable situations, like coming out to family, introducing new partners to the concept of open relationships, discrimination, etc., all of which were in this movie, since a happy ending was never necessary to be included on the list. We do see a coming out to family scene; we do see an introduction to a new partner scene; we do see the negative reactions and assumptions of people about open relationships in several scenes; we do see a couple who defends their relationship choices in positive terms, such as being attracted to others not changing the love they feel for each other and feeling secure and confident about their relationship, and all of these feel fairly realistic.

Basically, this movie could be summarized as "this is what non-polys think of polyamory and open relationships, and how things are supposed to end for us". But that means that there really was a poly-ish relationship in it, which means it should go on the list. It also means that, if this is the case, then this movie would be valuable to the poly community to show what non-polys think of us and other non-monogamists.


You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 37 - Esmeralda Comes By Night

posted Jun 16, 2018, 1:27 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 5:02 PM ]

Esmeralda Comes By Night (1997) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix  - Amazon

I'm not sure, but I'm reasonably confident that I did not get this movie from an online poly movie list, and instead it came from one of Netflix's recommendations based on when I added other poly movies. If this is the case, then Netflix deserves some serious thanks. Not only did I like this movie, but it actually was poly!

"Bewitching, passionate and beautiful, Esmeralda is happily married -- to five husbands! But just as she's about to marry groom No. 6, she's charged with polygamy. She reveals her reasons for marrying each husband to stern Judge Solorio, who -- like Esmeralda's spouses -- is no match for her charms. Meanwhile, her husbands conspire to break her out of jail, and feminists demonstrate in her defense."
This movie was charmingly campy. It wasn't *brilliantly* campy, like I might say for Bruce Campbell where the camp is a finely tuned sense of humor and understanding of the subject matter. This movie was campy in the Mama's Family sort of way - cheesy and goofy with a godawful fashion sense, but with the occasional flash of insightful social commentary.

Full disclosure: I liked Mama's Family and I'm well known for liking truly awful movies. In my opinion, there is a difference between "quality" and "enjoyable". A movie can be both, but it can also be only one or the other. I find many of the "classics" in art (literature, paintings, music, etc.) fall under the "quality" category but do not fall under the "enjoyable" category for me.

But anyway, the movie is exactly as the summary says. A woman is kneeling at the alter at her 6th wedding when the cops show up and arrest her for "quintuple bigamy" and the rest of the film is about Esmeralda's stories to the judge regarding each of her five husbands - how they met, what she likes about them, what they have to do with each other, etc.

There were 2 elements that made this movie particularly enjoyable for me. The first is the method they used to tell Esmeralda's stories. They didn't use the standard methods that I'm used to, like Wayne & Garth's wavy dissolve, or changing the color temperature of the scene (i.e. going to black and white, or making some scenes tinted green and others tinted orange), or fuzzy edges like viewing through a foggy window frame. What this movie did was to make the movie audience (the judge, the secretary/notes-taker, the witnesses, etc.) participate in the flashback scene.

For example, I'll explain the very first flashback. The scene was set in the flashback, in this case, in the park where Esmeralda met her almost-6th husband. As she sat on the bench with him, the judge's desk sat in the park next to her, and the secretary sat in front of her with the typewriter, and Esmeralda went through the motions as if she were really there with her beau while simultaneously speaking to the judge as she explained what was happening.

Each scene was slightly differently styled. Sometimes there was less direct conversation between Esmeralda and her audience, sometimes the action happened in the courtroom instead of the original location. But it was always the mixture of flashback and current circumstances. And I really liked the effect it had.

The other element that made this movie for me was a bit of dialog between Esmeralda and the judge. The writers managed to take every single online flame war, every single argument with conservative parents, every single self-righteous religious objection to polyamory, and the responses to them, and put them all into a single exchange between the judge and Esmeralda. "You should be ashamed", "you're ruining society", "you're promiscuous", "you're hurting people" - it was all there.

Now, I have a few little quibbles about a few details of the story, and if anyone really wants to get into them with me, I'm happy to do so. But I think the main qualifications for the Poly-ish Movie List are met and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the film in spite of thinking it wasn't a "quality" movie. The film includes multiple relationships that are based in love, it includes social and religious pressure (not necessarily in the direction you might be thinking), and it includes the metamours consent as well as negative consequences when someone doesn't consent. It also includes shifting attitudes when faced with exposure to opposing viewpoints, again, not necessarily in the direction you might be thinking.

I have 1 major quibble about this movie, and it was the final 2 scenes. I don't want to give away the ending, so I'll just say that if you watch this movie, when you get to the "picnic" at the end, I wish the movie had stopped there. The final two-ish scenes are just completely out of left field (whether the conversation with the judge and Esmeralda immediately following the picnic counts as part of "the final two-ish scenes" is a fuzzy matter). It's almost as if the last couple of scenes were directed and written by two different people, both of whom were not the director/writer of the rest of the movie, and who were each told that they were directing a movie in a completely different genre than the rest of the film. One of these replacement directors was a Fred Astaire buff, and the other was a horror movie fan. These two scenes were just so jarring, that I prefer to think of the movie as having ended at the "picnic".

But in spite of those truly bizarre, extraneous ending scenes, I still really liked the movie and I still recommend it if you like cheesy films. And, quibbles about lies and omissions aside, I think this movie definitely qualifies as a poly movie!

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 36 - Sleep With Me

posted May 15, 2018, 10:19 AM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 5:16 PM ]

Sleep With Me (1994) - Internet Movie Data Base - Netflix - Amazon

I don't think I've ever felt so misled by a movie summary before in my life. Netflix says

"A modern-day couple, Joseph and Sarah, discovers there's room for a third person in their marriage in this unusual romantic comedy. Joseph's best friend, Frank, is in love with Sarah, too, and no matter how much he tries, he can't get over her."
IMDB says
"Six different writers wrote a scene each of this romantic comedy featuring the marriage and turbulent relationship of Joseph and Sarah, with Joseph's best friend Frank trying hard to cope with letting the love of his life marry his best friend."

And Amazon says

"What happens when a man and his best friend both love his wife? Plenty of wildly funny, intense and shocking party conversation! Eric Stoltz, Craig Sheffer and Meg Tilly explore contemporary romance and relationships over six social events in 'the most original romantic comedy of the year. ... Sleep With Me is a raucously funny film! Joseph has finally professed his love for Sarah. Unfortunately, so has his best friend Frank! Bad timing, yes, but for whom? Frank's heartfelt admission bewitches Sarah, bothers Joseph and bewilders their friends who have no problem expressing their own often hilarious opinions of this bizarre love triangle."

I swear I didn't watch this movie. Maybe Eric Stolz, Meg Tilly, Craig Sheffer, Joey Lauren Adams, Parker Posey, and June Lockheart were all in another movie that happened to have the same name, and same character names, and similar plot, but was really the movie in the descriptions and I watched the other one. Even the cover art had nothing to do with the events in this film (it shows Meg Tilly in bed between Eric Stolz & Craig Sheffer - an enviable position, in my opinion).


This was not a romantic comedy. This was a fucking trainwreck of a relationship drama. There wasn't anything funny in this at all. Joseph is dating Sarah. Joseph is best friends with Frank. Frank is also best friends with Sarah. The three of them have known each other since college, when Frank was assigned as Joseph's roommate the year Joseph first started dating Sarah. Finally, after years of dating (and breaking up and getting back together), Joseph asks Sarah to marry him. Frank urges her to say yes, so she does.

The day before the wedding, Sarah confesses to Frank that she once considered pursuing him after the first time she and Joseph broke up back in college. He asks what would have happened, and Sarah says that she and Joseph would have gotten back together and she and Frank would have remained friends. Disbelieving her, Sarah kisses him to prove that they are still friends.

Some time later, at a party, Frank reveals that he is in love with Sarah and passionately kisses her in front of everyone. Joseph jumps up yelling "that's my WIFE!" and prys them apart. The party breaks up and Joseph and Sarah go home.

At the next party, Frank shows up at the invitation of their instigator friend (who is the host of the party), prompting Joseph to pick a fight with Frank that Sarah tries to break up. So Joseph turns on Sarah and they start screaming at each other in the kitchen. Joseph leaves with another girl at the party, so Sarah leaves with Frank. Joseph makes out with the other girl, but then leaves before sealing the deal. Meanwhile, Sarah has sex with Frank.

A week later, Frank crashes another party to find out why Sarah hasn't left Joseph yet and run away with him. Joseph discovers that Frank is there and picks another fight with him that results in the three of them shouting on the front lawn all the dirty details about Sarah and Frank having sex while Sarah is still married to Joseph. Sarah grabs the keys and leaves the two men standing on the sidewalk staring after her.

But Joseph turns away first so that only Frank notices that Sarah has stopped the car a block away. Frank doesn't go after her, though. He tells Joseph that she hasn't left. So Joseph, her husband, runs after her. Sarah opens the car door for him, he gets in, and they drive off.

That's it.

There's no poly in this at all, not even poly-ish. There's no comedy, no laughter, and certainly no group sex as the DVD cover and posters imply. There is only two people don't seem to like each other very much (why do movies always have romantic characters who don't like each other?), and a single man who is too shy to reveal his feelings for the woman he loves until she has thoroughly entangled her life with someone else. There is shouting, there is pain, there is heartache, there is confusion, there is cheating, there is lying, there is ownership and possession, there is backstabbing, and there certainly wasn't any "room for a third person in their marriage". I'm not even sure there was any room for the two who were in the marriage, let alone a third person.

The ending was so abrupt and so unresolved that I actually stared at the credits for a few heartbeats, expecting another scene. Apparently, it means that Sarah and Joseph are back in their not-so-happy twosome and have left Frank behind, alone again. I went back to the various webpages to get the URLs for this review, and I read and re-read the descriptions again. I checked the titles, I checked the URLs, I looked closely at the covers, to make sure I was at the right pages. I swear, this is not the same movie that they talk about.

I can't even tell if this was a "good" film or not because I'm so jarred by the misleading summaries and the unresolved ending. I wonder if this is why people have such fucked up views of relationships? Hollywood seems to think that relationships with people who don't like each other still have driving-off-into-the-sunset endings. So maybe people stay in relationships with each other because they think they're not supposed to like their partners very much, but if they stay there long enough, they'll get a fairy tale ending?

All I know is that everyone in that movie seemed to be miserable, including every single supporting character, and if that's what life and love are supposed to be like, I'll take my "unrealistic", "naive" poly family, thank you very much. Even though we also have conflict and occasionally some people in the network just don't get along in general, at least the romantic partners seem to like each other most of the time and just about everyone at least attempts to be polite to each other, and at the end of the day, no one stays out of obligation or fear of being alone. And goddamnit, no one starts a fucking shouting match at a party or thinks that public humiliation is an appropriate conflict resolution strategy.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to!

Episode 35 - Rita, Sue, & Bob Too

posted Apr 15, 2018, 4:16 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 5:22 PM ]

DVD cover of the movie Rita, Sue, And Bob Too

 Rita, Sue, & Bob Too (1987) - Internet Movie Data Base - Amazon

I just watched the creepiest fucking movie ever.

Rita and Sue are teenagers about to graduate high school. At least, I think. It's a film from the UK and I am one of those annoying US-centric Americans who has very little information about how the rest of the world does things, so I have absolutely no clue how the educational system works there, but it's weeks away from the end of their mandatory schooling and when they can move out of their parents' homes. 

 Rita and Sue are babysitters for Bob and Michelle. Again, I have no idea how that system works, but they are apparently both sitters. When I used to babysit, if the parents were going to be out particularly late, I was sometimes allowed to invite a female friend over to keep me company, but I was the only paid sitter. It was never explained how it works for Rita and Sue, I imagine because everyone in the UK already knows how it works. But they both sit together regularly.

So anyway, Rita and Sue babysit one night and Bob drives them home. Only he doesn't go home. He starts asking them creepy questions like if they're virgins and if they know how to put on a condom. The girls act insulted and antagonistic, but given how they behave throughout the rest of the movie, apparently antagonism is foreplay. So Bob takes them to some desolate cliff overlooking their town and fucks them both.

This is the third scene in the movie, and it only gets ickier from there.


There is absolutely no way to explain the poly part of this movie without giving away the ending. Sorry. At least you don't have to sit through 2 hours of it to finally get to the poly part.

Eventually we learn that his wife, Michelle, doesn't like sex and hasn't had sex with Bob in ages, but refuses to allow him sex elsewhere. We also learn that this isn't the first time Bob has cheated on her and Michelle knows about the first time - their last babysitter. They fight constantly over Michelle's lack of desire and Bob's infidelity and she continually accuses him of fucking the two teen girls, which he denies. Meanwhile, Bob makes regular trips to the high school where the girls ditch class to go fuck.

The sex scenes are uncomfortable and gross. Each girl waits her turn outside of the car, hurling insults and asking if he's almost done. The girls bicker and fight with each other and with everyone around them. They both come from the lower class neighborhood, with Sue's father being a fall-down-drunk and her mother complaining at her father while her father rages at Sue.

Eventually, the threesome are seen at a nightclub by Michelle's best friend, who promptly tells Michelle about it. Michelle then drags her friend over to Rita's house, drags Rita out by the sweater and over to Sue's house, where Bob shows up, and everyone stands on the front stoop shouting at each other - Michelle, Rita, Sue, Sue's mum and dad, and Bob.

Then, from out of nowhere, a gang of dirtbikers comes tearing down the street and onto the apartment building's lawn, circling the live re-enactment of Jerry Springer outside, and Rita jumps onto the back of one of the bikes and they all ride off together, leaving Sue screaming and on her own. Michelle speeds home, packs her kids and a few things, and destroys everything else, and leaves before Bob gets back.

The next day, Sue walks over to Rita's house, as she does every morning to walk to school together. Rita announces that she's dropping out of school two weeks before they graduate because Bob has asked her to move in with him (but not Sue), that Rita has been with Bob lots of times without Sue, that they didn't use condoms, and that Rita is now pregnant. Hurt and offended that she was not asked to move in and that Rita was with Bob without her, Sue storms off, only to run into Bob outside, who offers to continue boffing Sue on the side. Sue gets offended at the idea of screwing around with her best friend's man and storms off ... er ... continues storming off.

Sue starts dating some kid who we met earlier who made a bet with his buddy that he'd nail Sue before the buddy did. Again, Sue is antagonistic and insulting, but that doesn't put off our intrepid Aslam. After Aslam gets insulted by Sue's drunk father, they move in together with Aslam's sister, who keeps them in separate rooms.

Rita ends up having a miscarriage and Sue goes to see her at the hospital. Bob drives Sue home and Aslam goes into a jealous rage, accusing Sue of fucking Bob and threatening to wring her neck if she even so much as looks at another man again. Back at Rita and Bob's house, Bob calls out Sue's name during sex, which pisses off Rita, who promptly storms down to Sue's house to accuse her of sleeping with Bob.

So far, NONE of this is sounding very poly, but it's a lot dysfunctional.

Apparently, Rita runs into Aslam and tells him about the incident with Bob and her intentions for Sue ... at least I assume that's what happened, because we see the two of them stalking up to Aslam's house but Aslam makes Rita wait outside. Alsam goes into the house and starts screaming at Sue about being a slut and a whore and smacks her across the face. Sue has no idea what he's talking about, of course. Alsam lets Rita into the room to explain, but before she can say anything, Alsam attacks Sue and starts choking her. So Rita attacks Aslam, kicking him in the nuts and the two girls run away.

Back at Rita and Bob's house, Rita puts ice packs on Sue's neck and they appear to have made up, as Rita apologizes for accusing Sue, resulting in Aslam's attack. Aslam arrives. Now, Rita and Sue live in a poor neighborhood, but Bob's house is in an extremely nice neighborhood. And Aslam is Pakistani. So naturally a brown person walking through a white, upper class neighborhood is justifiable cause to call the cops - or so the nosy neighbor who is always watering his lawn thinks, because he does so immediately upon seeing Aslam, before he even reaches the house. 

 Aslam, Rita, and Sue carry on a shouted conversation through the various windows around the house as Aslam begs to be let in to talk to Sue and Sue refuses. Eventually he threatens to take some pills and kill himself if Sue won't take him back. She not only calls his bluff, but she hands him a glass of water through the pet door. Alsam fakes a suicide but just before Sue backs down, the cops show up and Aslam takes off running.

Now Bob comes home to find Sue and Rita sitting on the couch. Rita announces that Sue is moving in, that Rita and Sue will be sharing the master bedroom, and that Bob can sleep in the dog's bed from now on. The two girls leave the room. Bob wanders around the house aimlessly, probably wondering what the hell happened to his nice and tidy life, and eventually wanders upstairs ...

... where he finds Rita and Sue both in bed, topless, with a space between them, waiting for him. They say in unison "took you long enough!" and he leaps into the bed with them. The end.

So, there's nothing poly about this movie until *maybe* the final 3 seconds of the film. The first part isn't poly because it's a married man cheating on his wife with two fucking teenagers. The middle part isn't poly because he chooses only one of the teens and the other gets into an abusive relationship. But since it could be argued that the very very end of the movie involves three people in a live-in, consensual relationship, that makes this a poly movie.

But I disliked this movie more than I disliked Cafe au Lait. At least in Cafe au Lait, the three characters all live together for about half the film, even though they disliked each other. In this one, the three title characters don't dislike each other, exactly, but they don't seem to really like each other either. But, to be fair, they don't seem to like anybody, or anything. Everyone in the movie fights with everyone else. Apparently, that's just what life is like Yorkshire. The reviews keep calling it "realistic". That's a terrifying thought. The movie also got rave reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, the Berlin Film Festival, and Sundance.

I can't understand why everyone loved this movie. Just showing people argue with each other and daring to set a film in a slum doesn't make for a "gritty film", in my opinion. So the girls are poor, and there's a lot of cussing and fucking. Big deal. The characters were unlikable and their motivations were random and unpredictable. But I guess if you live in an area where nobody likes anyone, you don't expect the characters to like each other. They just have to agree to stay together. Although I'm not sure why anyone *does* stay together if you don't like each other and there's no financial incentive. I guess it's just something you do.

I've already established that it's still a poly film if the movie ends with a breakup, as long as the *reason* is not that polyamory itself destroyed the relationship. If a movie shows functional polyamory that's destroyed by outside pressures, or even by personality conflicts but not because there are multiple people, then even if the relationship ends, it's a poly movie. So is it a poly film if the opposite happens? Does it count as poly if there is no poly in the movie anywhere but it has a "happy" poly ending? I guess so.

I'm grudgingly keeping this movie on the list because of the ending. But I hated it.

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I have since learned that this movie is based on a true story. Apparently this was first a play and the playwright really did have an affair with a married man with her best friend while they were teenagers. But it did not have a "happily ever after" ending and the author was very unhappy about that change in the screen adaptation. The playwright, Andrea Dunbar, really did live in Yorkshire in a poor neighborhood and apparently did have the kind of hard life that one expects from poverty, including dying very young - at age 29 of a brain hemorrhage in the same pub that we see the father of one of the girls stumble out of at the beginning of the film.

Dunbar wrote 3 plays before she died, all based on her life as a poor young woman in Britain. She was considered "ahead of her time" and "brilliant" and was one of the first to showcase what it was like to live in poverty in her modern age, including domestic violence, teen pregnancy, alcoholism, etc. I suppose in 1987, seeing this story on the big screen was considered revolutionary, and maybe I would have had a different view of the film had I seen it closer to when it came out. 

But the film was billed as a "comedy" and I didn't think it was funny in the slightest, and it was also billed as "gritty", which I think utterly fell flat since they were trying to make it "lighthearted" so it wasn't "gritty" to me either. Had there not been the cheesy "poly ever after" ending, and had they tried for more realism instead of "look, life here is hell, but we're having a good time anyway!" tone, I might have enjoyed the film more. Perhaps the play is more like that.

Episode 34 - Blow Dry

posted Mar 24, 2018, 9:13 PM by Joreth InnKeeper   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 5:24 PM ]

Blow Dry (2001) - Internet Movie Data Base - Amazon

I don't know where this movie came from.  Did you know that the Netflix DVD queue has a limit?   I forget what it is now, but I've maxed it out.   On more than one occasion.  It's around 500 DVDs.  Eventually, movies become unavailable on Netflix, and if it's in your queue when this happens, they get moved out of the queue and into another queue of movies "waiting" to be added back to Netflix, freeing up a slot on my regular queue for more movies.

Other movies have not yet been added to the Netflix library but they somehow use the User interest to help them get the rights?   I don't know if it actually does something to get the rights, or if it just tells them how to gauge what movies they should be fighting for, or what. I've been a Netflix member for so many years, and their system has changed so many times, that honestly I can't remember which of these movies used to be available and isn't now, and which never were but Netflix gave me the opportunity to express interest in.

A few months ago, I took a peek at my "waiting" queue and I was shocked at how long it had gotten.  With Netflix cycling out so many movies every month, I got concerned that some of these movies would never make it into the queue, or back into the queue.  So I went searching for a bunch of alternative sources.

Usually, when a movie has been in my queue long enough, I forget why I put it there.  It could be a potential poly movie, or it could be a skeptic movie, or it could be a Netflix recommendation based on something else I added, or it could be something that someone recommended for totally unrelated reasons.  But I can often guess why I put it on the queue based on what was added just before or just after it, since I'll often add similar movies in batches.   Without that associative reminder, though, I may have a movie here without really remembering why I have it.

All that to say that I had no fucking idea why I had this movie lying around, so tonight I watched it just so I could identify it and move it to an appropriate place (the trash bin, if I didn't like it, or my movie shelf, or one of my collections, for instance).

When it started up, I had even less fucking idea why I had this movie lying around.  I couldn't tell if this was satire or serious?  It reminds me of Cuban Fury, in that way.   Cuban Fury is supposed to be a satirical dance movie, but even though it's poking fun at dance movies, it turned out to be actually a good dance movie with some really amazing salsa dancing.  It's less satirical in that over-the-top Saturday Night Live kinda way, and more satirical in that "we know that we're making fun of a genre but we're going to do it utterly seriously", Shaun of the Dead sort of way.

Blow Dry struck me as the latter sort of movie.   It's about a national hair styling competition in Britain, staring ... aw, shit, who isn't it starring?  Alan Rickman, Natasha Richardson, Rachel Griffiths, Rachel Leigh Cook, Josh Hartnett, Bill Nighy, Warren Clarke, Rosemary Harris, Peter McDonald, and freaking Heidi Klum.  A tiny, pissant of a British town who doesn't give two shits about high fashion or hair wins the rights to host this national hair competition.  So all the pompous, Capital City-esque hair designers come to the sticks in their gold lame and glitter (much to the total apathy of the townsfolk) including the trite and overdone Villain - a hair dressing diva who is legitimately talented but not above resorting to dirty tricks to ensure that he wins the trophy.

The opening scenes were so ... Hairspray / A Dirty Shame / John Waters campy that I spent the first several minutes just boggling over why I thought this was important enough to acquire in the first place. But I liked Hairspray (the original), and I liked Cuban Fury, so I kept watching.

The basic plot is that Alan Rickman's character, Phil, used to be a star hairdresser with his wife, Shelley a decade ago, until Shelley ran away with their model, Sandra.   Now, Phil, a devastated and bitter man, cuts men's hair in his barber shop with his son in this town as far away from the glamorous hair lifestyle as possible.   Shelly runs her own salon with Sandra in the same town, and is estranged from their son, Brian, because of his dad's bitterness about being left by his wife on the eve of the big competition 10 years ago.

On the day that the mayor of the town makes the big announcement that they will be hosting that year's national hair dressing championships, Shelley gets the news from her doctor that her cancer is no longer in remission and they have exhausted all the options other than to make what time she has left comfortable.  Shelley gets some advice from an old woman whose hair she does regularly, to tie up her loose ends while she can, so that she's not like the old woman's husband who just dropped dead without even giving his wife a chance to say goodbye.

So Shelley, without telling anyone about her diagnosis, decides to try and get her family back together by entering the competition.  Unlike the SNL style of satire movies, there were no "and hijinks ensue" plot lines.   It was a very standard, seriously done plot (if a goofy premise) where the protagonists face a series of challenges that the villain tries to rig, ending with the two teams that we give a shit about entering the final challenge neck-and-neck, only the protagonists are missing / thwarted / led astray!  Who will win?  It could be anyone!   Or, y'know, the protagonists with a last-minute save, because that's how this plot line works.

So, why am I doing an episode on this movie?  There's nothing about this that says "poly" so far, and I made it to this final challenge still not knowing why I had the movie at all.  Until the "pep talk before the final challenge that puts the protagonist back in the game" scene.  Which means that I'm about to spoiler the end of this movie, but honestly, you already know how this movie turns out because of the genre it's in.


Shelley has been hiding her diagnosis from her partner, Sandra.   In the middle of one of the conflicts earlier in the film, Shelley reveals her diagnosis to her ex-husband and son.  When Brian, her son, asks why she just told them and not Sandra, Shelley says that she can tell them because they don't care about her (as evidenced by Phil's biting snark and Brian's moody recalcitrance), but Sandra cares so much that telling her would rip her heart out.

One night, while practicing for the next day's challenges, and being forcibly reminded yet again through Phil's bitter condescension of her worthlessness, Sandra walks in on Shelley throwing up and just *knows* that the cancer is back and that Shelley lied to her when she said her latest tests came back "all clear".  Sandra, the hair model for the competition, throws everyone out and quits the competition, going home to her mother at the edge of town.  With no model, with Phil refusing to join in the first place and only giving criticism, and with Brian's challenges already over, Shelley also throws in the towel.  She decides that this team is broken and gives up trying.

After an epiphany, Phil finally gets off his sore ass and decides to move past all the hurt he's been grudgingly clinging to all these years.  He finally understands that Shelley never wanted to win the competition, that she really just wanted to put her family back together, to heal the hurt she helped to cause all those years ago and to be a support network for herself and for each other in the coming difficulty.

Phil goes to speak to Sandra.  At this point, there's still nothing poly about it. He could very easily just be trying to bury the hatchet with his former model so that they're not constantly bickering and pulling at Shelley like a tug-of-war game.  But two things happen:  Earlier in the movie, Phil expresses hurt that Shelley left him for a woman, that he could have gotten over it if only it had been another bloke.   Shelley says, very pointedly, that there has *never* been another bloke for her, and there still isn't [long, pointed, significant look from Shelley, followed by confused and then dawning look from Phil].

Now, Phil has a talk with Sandra, his dearest love's lover.  He tries to talk her into coming back, for Shelley's sake. [inserted movie clip where Phil makes amends with Sandra]

There.   Right there.   "It's not me she needs, it's you."  "Maybe it's neither. It's us. ... Has to be worth a shot?"  Now, for most monogamous audiences, there's nothing inherently poly in this either.  Ex-spouses remain part of the family all the time, especially when there are children involved.  And admitting to an ex-spouse that he is the only person of his gender that one has ever loved also doesn't *necessarily* mean that that she still loves him *in the same way* as she did back then, or that there is an implied promise of a future together.  Especially, given her rather short expiration date.

But something that I've been arguing about for nearly 20 years now, since way before this whole Relationship Anarchy thing came up, is that who is having sex with whom is not the most important criteria for "family", and that it's "family" that really makes polyamory different from other forms of non-monogamy.  Polyamory has been used interchangeably with "intentional family" since the word was coined, what with the neo-pagan movement that coined it explicitly creating the culture around the idea of "intentional family".

So, we can argue all day about where the line is drawn - what makes it "polyamory" when you take the sex and romance out of the equation and just talk about "love" and "family" - but in the end, where that very specific line is drawn isn't really the point.  This podcast is even named "Poly-ISH Movie Reviews", and one lover being spurned for another, only to have both of them reach an understanding that their mutual love needs them both and that family is the important lesson here, is about as poly as it gets.

The poly content is ambiguous.   And I'd be willing to bet actual money that the writer, director, and all the actors did NOT interpret any of this as leading to a polyamorous family.  But all of my poly lessons came from my own Christian, hetero, monogamous family (which I write about in my blog, if you're interested on how *that* works out).  So, with the level of ambiguity, I'm going to deliberately interpret this as a poly-ish movie.

I choose to believe that the implications of Shelley's admission earlier about Phil being the one and only "bloke" for her, and his later suggestion to Sandra that they give "us" a try, *could lead* to a poly family.   With Shelley's illness, sex and romance are not going to be defining features of her future anyway.  What she will need is emotional support.   This is the "worse" part of "for better or for worse" and the literal "sickness" part of "in sickness and in health" and is the ultimate challenge of "until death do we part".

Sex and romance is great and all, but what good is "family" if not for the hard stuff?   Why bother calling our groups "family" or "tribe" or any of the other words we use if the only thing that makes them significant is the sex or the romance?  Polyamory certainly isn't the only relationship style that values "family", even extended or non-traditional ones like in this movie. Plenty of versions of monogamy do that too, even.

But it's a value that we claim is integral to our relationship style, a value that we use as a motivation for what we do.   So I'm letting the ambiguity in this film point me in the direction of a poly-ish future for these characters, short though it may be.  And, who knows?  Maybe Sandra and Phil will become family again on their own after Shelley is gone, not opposing forces tied together through a mutual pivot point and likely to drift apart on their own momentum without that pivot point holding them together.  They did, after all, have a close friendship through their model / hairdresser relationship before all the hurt.

If you don't think that the ambiguity is enough to justify calling it a "poly-ish movie", that's fine.  This is not one of those cases where I'm out to convince people to change their minds.  *I* felt it was poly-ish and I'm content with the nebulous, indeterminate quality of that conclusion.  I'll be including it on my list. If you like campy, if you like that satire-but-actually-kinda-serious style of "comedy", and if you like Alan Rickman, I recommend this movie.

You've been reading Poly-ish Movie Reviews, with your host, Joreth, where I watch the crap so you don't have to! 

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